Monday, September 12, 2011

" What I Have Learned About Physical Therapists "

Prior to my Bilateral Total Knee Replacement surgery this past August 16th, my knowledge of a Physical Therapist couldn't fill a thimble. I knew that they helped people learn how to use or relearn how to use a specific part or parts of the anatomy that no longer worked properly. Weather due to an accident or replacement by teaching them certain exercises.

That was all I knew until I had my own opportunity to be in the care of a few P.T.'s from our hospital and then the "In Home Health Care" P.T.'s that came to my home three days a week for two weeks after I was sent home.

My husband Jake was by my side each time I was sent to Physical Therapy, in the hospital and at home. So he was able to see first hand what they would do and how they would do it.

He and I had an on going joke at the hospital about them. We would often tease them about it and soon learned that they also had a pretty good sense of humor as well as other talents.

Our joking went somewhat like this: Aren't Physical Therapists wonderful. They are always so friendly, sweet and welcoming. As soon as you walk through the P.T. doors they are standing at the ready with bright smiling faces greeting you with a big "WELCOME, COME IN WON'T YOU! WE'VE BEEN SO LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU TODAY AND EVERYDAY FOR AS LONNNGGGG AS WE CAN KEEP YOU HERE. AS LONG AS STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS WILL ALLOW US TO KEEP YOU. AS LONG AS YOU KEEP BREATHING. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, WON'T YOU COME IN?".

Well how can one turn down such a friendly and inviting invitation? Once inside they quietly point the way to where they would like you to sit, stand or lay. All the while you just can't help but smile back at them as they just look so darn friendly. 

And then a light goes off in your head and the sweet voices somehow change into a somewhat military tone. " Lift that leg.", " You can do better than that can't you?", " Come on really? That's as high as you can go?, Higher. Higher. HIGHER!!!".

It just keeps escalating after that. Most of the vocabulary has now changed to words like: Faster, farther, more, not good enough, keep going, one more walk around the campus, you know you can do it!

Forget about those tears I'm trying to hold back. Forget about that drink of water that they promised and kept forgetting about. Just walk! Just lift that leg. Just bend that knee!

What's that? My time is up you say? By now I'm looking at my husband who is sitting in the corner, shaking and I think he was drying a tear from his eye. I was so incoherent by now, that I just couldn't figure out why he kept covering his face with his hand, swiftly, every time the therapist looked his way.

Finally my time was over for the morning session. The sweet friendly therapists waved and blew kisses at us as my husband swiftly wheeled me through the doors and down the hall. I think I heard the therapist saying " I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL THIS AFTERNOON'S SESSION, YOU ARE GREAT!" , but my husband was running walking so quickly that I couldn't really hear them so well.

They really were great as they actually got a kick out of our demented sense of humor. They were very good sports about being teased.

By the time I was back in my bed, I was starving and exhausted. The thought of going back there did not rock my world at this point.
But in all honesty and sincerity, I wouldn't be where I am right now if not for them. They were a huge help with me and my husband. There were a few things they had to teach him about my two new knees and how to care for me. We are both grateful to them, especially Alice. She was sweet and understanding. Always willing to show me how to do things and answer any questions that we had.

They were, I do believe, the most important people in the list of caretakers through all of this.

Which leads me now to the lovely therapist that helped me at home. Her name was Roberta and not only did she get me up and going, she also kept teaching me how to do new "old" things. 

When you have your knee or knees replaced, you have to remind them how to work. You don't just jump out of bed the next day being able to do all that you did before. The muscles that surround the knee are key in this. They have been cut open during surgery. Not only are they trying to heal but they are constantly being worked out and strengthened or else you would get no where fast. And it's painful so pain management is key to the entire process.  

I was sent home from the hospital with about twenty different exercises that needed to be repeated twice a day. Along with walking in between. When Roberta knew that I had accomplished that, she gave me a new set of standing exercises that also needed to be repeated twice a day. She also was a great cheerleader as was my husband. It's a lot of hard and painful work. It can bring you down and feeling emotionally tired. Roberta and Jake got me through this. Roberta with her measurements of how much I had progressed every other day and Jake reminding me of how far I had come and of all of the future plans we had made.

The first time Roberta got me on my stationary bike, I just plain old "Freaked Out". Sorry but it is what it is. I couldn't move the peddle back or forward more than about two inches. My knees felt like they would lock up and I'd be on my way back to the hospital. But she was right when she said to keep practicing it and before I knew it I'd be peddling again. And on the day that I was released from Home Health, the head therapist, Sarah, got me to peddle all the way around and I was riding! What a high I had that day. I cried. I cry at everything anymore and you know what? I don't care. Life is full of joys and sorrows. Why hide it?

My next tearjerker happened this past Sunday. It started a week and a half ago when Roberta got me to walk up the fourteen stairs to my apartment/bedroom. The walls leading up the stairs have no railings but Roberta assured me that with my cane and her standing behind me, that I could do it. And do it I did. Again I cried, it was however very painful for me the rest of the day and night. Once again she assured me that with practice, I would be sleeping upstairs within two weeks.

Last Tuesday rolled around and my husband had to leave, over the road. It would be just me and Kate now. But before he left he made me promise that I wouldn't try the stairs until he came home in two weeks and could put railings up. I promised. And then, I broke the promise.

I was getting ready for church Sunday morning. Kate and I were dressed and ready to go but I was lacking a necklace and some lipstick. I can't go to church without lipstick.

When Katie was four years old we were going somewhere in the car. I wasn't wearing any lipstick. Katie said to me, " mommy when you don't wear lipstick, you look like you have no teeth.". I have taken that statement seriously ever since.

So this past Sunday I was by the bottom of the stairs looking up and I yelled "Katie, come here!". When she came in the room I told her that she was going to pretend to be a railing. She agreed and then I just started walking up the stairs with her BEHIND me. I walked up those stairs just as I had thousands of times before. I do believe I even got a smile out of my "Oh so serious, sixteen year old."

I got my lipstick, a necklace, some bracelets and a pair of capris that I had forgotten upstairs when I moved my clothes downstairs before the surgery.

I then walked down the stairs as I had a thousand times before only this time Katie walked in front of me. I went into the living room, sat down, called my husband and told him how I had broken my promise. I can't remember if he was mad or not, I was too busy trying to fight back my tears of joy. Didn't want to ruin my make-up before church you know. 

I think he has forgiven me and I haven't gone up there since. But I did it. I did it. 

And so now if you were to ask me what I know about Physical Therapists. I can tell you this much more than I could before, 

They give you your life back.


Jamie said...

What a beautiful post! My experience with PT's had not been quite this great, but I have never had to learn to re-do things to the extent that you have. I admire your strength and your attitude. :)

Have a very happy day.

Wanda..... said...

I hear all Physical Therapists have military training! :) Your wonderful writing had me either laughing or tearing up all the way through, Di.

So glad you have your life back and once again blessing us with that wonderful sense of humor!

Eileen said...

I don't think I have ever read a better tribute.
This was a great read, Di, (and "They give you your life back" was wonderful!), and I'm so happy that you are progressing so well, and I'm so happy that you had such good coaches (and such great support from your family)!
I think about your courage and determination all the time, you are an inspiration to me!

And, thanks for visiting me, Di. I'm trying to get back into the swing of blogging now that Jayden is in school full time again.
'See you soon!
Love and Prayers, E

Lynilu said...

What a great story, Di!

I've not had the experience you have. I had a few PT sessions after a whiplash injury, but it was to learn how to sit and stand to protect my neck, very different than the the intensity of yours.

Now in my job, we have several PTs who do the wonderful in-home work with patients much like yourself, and when I hear about the results they have with patients. I'm awed by their work!

I'm glad your progress is good. I love hearing how you're doing. :) While reading the saga of your trip up and down the stairs, I felt a lump in my throat. I'm so, so happy for you! Keep working on it. :) Sending hugs to you. And to Kate for being there when you needed her.

Anvilcloud said...

When I was undergoing therapy on my lo these many year, we called it Frenny's house of pain,m Frenny being her name.

Rebecca said...

Wow! What a journey you have made - and ARE making! I think you should frame that last sentence & give it to your PTs. "PTs: They give you your life back!"

You should be SO proud of yourself, Di! (And I think Katie is now an official Partner in Crime!)

Erik's RV Blog said...

I'm learning a lot from you Diana! It's great that you're doing so well, when my father had 5 way bypass surgery he called his therapist "Nurse Ratchet" if you remember the movie reference from "One flew over the coo coos (sp?) nest".

He drove those people batty! Have a great week!


Diana said...

Why yes Erik, I do remember nurse Ratchet. As a matter of fact, while in the hospital I had a nurse that Jake and I referred to as nurse Ratchet!
Love Di ♥

Sharon said...

I am glad you had such a good experience with your PT! They are wonderful people!

Please stay off the stairs until you get a railing!

Jackie said...

Actually, I have never heard anything but good things about physical therapists. I'm so glad that you are having a positive experience, Di.
Love to you, my sweet friend.

Joy said...

Wow, Diana, I am so glad you shared this. What a story! I have heard from another person after he had a major illness; "I never, ever want to see a P.T. again!" Of course, he knew how valuable they are for recovery, but I believe they pushed him just like they pushed you. It must take a special person to be a P.T. Praise God you are doing so well--but please be careful! (I'm a wimp--wouldn't make a good P.T.!)

Rob-bear said...

Glad to hear of all your "moving" experiences with the therapists. Good for you. And them.
Just so you know, you are signed up for next year's marathon. With your bionic legs, I'm sure you'll do well.
Blessings and Bear hugs.

Sandi said...

I'm sitting here, Di, with tears in my eyes. I'm crying with joy for you and your wonderful success stories, and I'm crying for my PT's whom I love for that very reason you said at the end, "They give us our life back."

You amaze me that you climbed stairs so soon! I was lucky to be on one floor at home, and was scared of stairs. But, I've been climbing them pretty regularly lately, and they aren't so bad!

Keep up the good work. You'll be back to "normal" before you know it!

Love and big hugs! Sandi

Pramoda Meduri said...

I've learnt it through ur post dear.. thats well said..

I watched a movie recently.. "For the love of the game".. one interesting scene abt physios..

Hope u r getting recovered fast ..

Best wishes..

Jackie said...

I'm baaaack....making sure you are still 'kicking' my friend....leaving you hugs while I'm here.

Barb said...

Oh, Di - I laughed out loud at Katie's statement about your lipstick! Kids! About a week ago, Caden said, "Grammy you need to wear redder lipstick!" (Now I think of him whenever I apply any color and wonder if it would get his approval.) You are so fortunate to have had great PT's who set the bar high and kept encouraging you. I know you were probably a favorite since you are willing to work and have a positive attitude. You've come so far, so fast, Di - good for you!

Leontien said...

haha GREAT story!!!

And yes PT's are pretty special! My PT was very determined! haha

but she also gave super massages!

I am soo pround and glad for you!
Big hugs coming your way

Ginnie said...

Having worked in a hospital for years I can tell you (although you already know) that the PTs are the backbone of medical care. They have a tough job and are almost always good humored and empathetic at the same time. I have a high regard for them, as you can see, but in the end you are the one who does the work, Di, and you are doing it at a great rate.
Your great sense of humor goes far under these conditions.

Brenda said...

Oh, I am so glad to hear your report. I dreaded and looked forward to PT. Each accomplishment is encouraging. I am so glad that you are making progress. Soon this will be behind you. You were so wise to do both knees at once. Keep up the good work. Great post!

Amity said...

Hi Diana,

I missed you and I really missed so many things about you - knee surgery most especially.

Honestly, I was tear-eyed reading your story here about PTs...I could feel the pains and the struggles you have had with those people but in the end, it gave me a smile because after defying the orders of your husband not to climb the stairs, I am happy because you did it and that is a sure sign that you are on your way to total recovery and in due time you will be back to your good old self...I pray!

Keep your faith in God dear Di and all will be taken cared of by our Almighty God...:)

Nothing is impossible you know!

I love you Di and I terribly missed you!